We show that the 53-nucleotide RNA molecule encoded by gene dicF blocks cell division in Escherichia coli by inhibiting the translation of ftsZ mRNA. Such a role for dicF had been predicted on the basis of the complementarity of DicF RNA with the ribosome-binding region of the ftsZ mRNA. An analysis of ftsZ expression at its chromosomal locus, and of an ftsZ-lacZ translational fusion controlled by promoters ftsZ1p and ftsZ2p only, indicates that ftsZ is not autoregulated. Partial inhibition of FtsZ synthesis leads to increased cell size. However, the number of FtsZ molecules per cell can be reduced threefold without affecting the division rate significantly. Our results suggest that septation is not triggered by a fixed number of newly synthesized FtsZ molecules per cell.